Top Risks in the Current Cyber Threat Landscape (& How to Avoid Them)

person holding tablet looking for cyber threat

The current cyber threat landscape has become so rife with hacking schemes that few businesses are prepared to defend their valuable and sensitive digital assets. From ransomware to supply chain cyber attacks, hackers are hard at work devising ways to directly assault organizations or make end-runs around those with respectable defenses. The following ten risks rank among the more treacherous methods used by digital criminals. We’ve also assembled cyber threat prevention tips to help you avoid getting snared.

Table of Contents:

Ransomware Attacks Mirror Physical Kidnappings

The digital scheme known as a ransomware attack takes its criminal underpinnings from kidnapping thuggery. Like gangs that grab a person and pressure family members to pay for their release, cyber criminals effectively seize control of a business’s digital assets. Unless a ransom demand is met, typically in the form of cryptocurrency, valuable and sensitive information may be destroyed or sold on the dark web.

Hackers pull off these schemes by finding security vulnerabilities and exploiting them. In many cases, cybercriminals take advantage of employees who lack cyber security awareness training. In other instances, more skilled thieves engage in what is known as zero-day attacks. This method uses a weakness, such as unpatched software, to deploy a ransomware infection. The total number of ransomware attacks is estimated to have exceeded 493 million in 2022.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

Cyber threat prevention is of paramount importance, and ransomware attacks can have a devastating impact on organizations. That’s why employers would be well-served to take proactive measures to deter cybercriminals. By educating frontline staff members about the immediate cyber security threat landscape, ways to identify hacking schemes, and building zero trust architecture, your risk can be significantly reduced.

Social Engineering Expands the Cyber Threat Landscape

Business professionals outside managed IT and cybersecurity are often unclear about social engineering. If you’re wondering: why do cyber attackers commonly use social engineering attacks? The answer is that it gives them a tactical advantage. Social engineering is a lot like a criminal gang casing a building for a high-stakes burglary. Hackers go to work researching employees and C-suite executives.

They troll professional platforms such as LinkedIn and social media for personal information that can be exploited. Online flim-flam artists then use the intel to prompt someone in the organization to make a critical mistake. In the recent MGM Grand and Caesars casino attacks, a hacking group called Scattered Spiders used social engineering to convince a help desk employee to give them a one-time username and password. The fallout cost the casinos millions in ransom demands, revenue losses, and the embarrassment of facing civil lawsuits due to exposed personal data.

How To Avoid Social Engineering Exploitation

It’s important to keep in mind that social engineering is typically part of a larger cyber security threat action. Business professionals can limit the personal identity information they place online, such as birth dates, phone numbers, and photos that identify addresses. Beyond those measures, deterrents such as multi-factor authentication and cybersecurity awareness training can effectively reduce this cyber threat.

What is Cyber Espionage & Why Does it Threaten Businesses?

Cyber espionage is not necessarily restricted to foreign adversaries targeting agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, the White House, or the Department of State. Well-funded and highly skilled hackers also target intellectual property and military defense contractors and subcontractors. These efforts are designed to improve their economic position and unveil our strategic national security initiatives.

Although nation-state hackers employ many of the same schemes as garden variety criminals, they do it with significantly more finesse and persuasiveness. Catfishing, for example, involves the patient development of an online identity that gains the trust of government employees over time. By creating social media profiles and employing digital relationship-building, cyber espionage uses refined methods to prompt people to make a mistake.

How to Prevent Cyber Espionage

Cyber security awareness training ranks among the best deterrents to cyber espionage. When employees know the telltale signs of cyber espionage methods, they can alert the virtual chief information security officer. Another top-tier strategy involves having a third-party firm conduct a risk assessment. This process highlights systemic vulnerabilities and allows decision-makers to minimize their exposure to the current cyber threat landscape.

Zero-Day Attacks Present Clear & Present Cyber Security Threat

It may seem counterintuitive to list zero-day attacks as a high-level cyber threat, given the fact that only 55 exploits were reported in 2022. However, the nature of this hacking scheme puts thousands of organizations at risk of a ransomware infestation or other types of malware.

In a zero-day attack, hackers identify unpatched software or hardware vulnerabilities. While an organization may otherwise possess determined cybersecurity, this is an unanticipated kink in the proverbial armor. Until the vulnerability is cured, hackers hold the cyber threat advantage.

Zero-Day Attack Prevention

The key to zero-day prevention is due diligence. It’s crucial to have a managed IT professional with cybersecurity expertise perform software and hardware patches. Removing outdated and non-essential tools also supports zero-day attack prevention measures.

Look Out For Cryptocurrency Security Threats

Although the world of cryptocurrency offers convenience and potential profitability, it is not without cyber security threat risks. Since the first use of crypto to order a Papa John’s pizza in 2010, the rise of digital money has garnered broad interest and splashy headlines. Upwards of 220 U.S. companies work with the digital currency in the sometimes dangerous cyber threat landscape.

Common risks involve hackers pulling off crypto jacking heists. Approximately $220 million in crypto was pilfered off through cryptojacking in 2022 alone. Straightforward ransomware attacks and crypto exchange schemes continue to plague the cyber security threat landscape. Those are reasons why businesses that wish to garner the benefits of cryptocurrency need to be very cautious.

How to Minimize Cryptocurrency Security Vulnerabilities

Following the standards established by the Information Security Management System, cryptocurrency users can deter cyber threat actors from advancing on these digital assets. However, determined cyber threat prevention calls for a risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and proactive solutions.

Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security Vulnerabilities Threaten Everyone

In 2022, more than 20 percent of cyber attacks tried to upend or circumvent critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Hackers were primarily targeting water systems and electrical grids. By extension, sectors such as communications, healthcare, manufacturing, government, agriculture, and the military industrial base would all be impacted should hackers bring America’s critical infrastructure to a standstill.

And cybercriminals do not necessarily limit their bag of nefarious tricks to specific cyber attack methods. They throw everything from phishing schemes to the kitchen sink at the cybersecurity professionals tasked with keeping the lights on and water flowing. Few things in the current cyber threat landscape can put businesses and people at risk, like infrastructure cyber attacks.

How to Harden Critical Infrastructure Cyber Security

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to minimizing the cyber attack surface of critical infrastructure operations. That’s mainly because outfits utilize varying systems and interconnectivity. The best way to resolve vulnerabilities involves a risk assessment, cybersecurity consultation, and charting a forward-facing security policy.

Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management Takes a Proactive Approach

The need for actionable cyber supply chain risk management cannot be understated. Major supply chain attacks impact tens of thousands of organizations and millions of people, reaching the highest level of government. The 2020 Solar Winds supply chain attack compromised upwards of 30,000 organizations, including the U.S. Treasury, and Department of Homeland Security. When the Equifax credit reporting bureau got stung by a supply chain attack, 147 customers were affected.

How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Cyber Attack Risks

Industry leaders would be well-served to schedule a risk assessment to identify security weaknesses and integrate cyber threat prevention measures. It will also be necessary to make systemic changes to minimize the risk of hackers uncovering high-value digital assets.

Supply Chain Cyber Attacks Hit the SaaS Environment Hard

Supply chain cyber attacks have reportedly escalated by 430 percent in recent years as hackers test new methods and software-as-a-service vulnerabilities to avoid preventative security measures. In just one year, supply chain cyber attacks more than tripled, making them a major concern in the current cyber threat landscape.

One of the reasons hackers find this type of thievery so attractive is that it does not necessarily require exhaustive efforts — especially in today’s software-as-a-service environment. Rather than level a brute force attack or painstakingly search for a network vulnerability, cybercriminals find an organization (or software) with weak defenses and infiltrate. This is even more effective with SaaS applications that are downloaded and reused by wide-reaching devices. Then, cybercriminals plant malicious code that trickles to others in the operation’s orbit. In the end, trusted vendors get blindsided by upstream, midstream, dependency confusion, and compromised SSL attacks.

How to Prevent Supply Chain Cyber Attacks

Because supply chain cyber attacks leverage otherwise trusted third parties to do their dirty work unwittingly, it’s increasingly difficult to defend against them. Zero trust architecture ranks among the best solutions. Today’s Software-as-a-Service environment is vulnerable to at least four major kinds of supply chain attacks, and it pays to learn about them in advance so you can make informed decisions about your software stack.

Cyber Security Risks Increase for Medical Devices & Healthcare Organizations

Advancements in healthcare and medical devices have outpaced the ability of organizations to track and defend their attack surface. As Internet of Things (IoT) devices and common wearables sync with laptops, desktops, and cellular phones, cyber security in healthcare is stretched to its limits. Deploying a variety of cyber crime techniques, hackers continue to strike gold using three vulnerabilities: 1) Legacy devices that cannot be upgraded to deter intruders remain a top-line cyber security threat. 2) Health (IoT) mobile devices such as FitBits and Smart Watches that offer health metrics are primary hacking targets. 3) The failure of healthcare businesses to implement system segmentation strategies rounds out the top risks for cyber security in healthcare.

How to Prevent Healthcare Cyber Attacks

Defending against a data breach in the healthcare and medical device space requires a thorough risk assessment and a comprehensive security plan catering to healthcare-related cyber vulnerabilities. Endpoint and IoT devices must be identified and their vulnerabilities resolved. The same holds true for healthcare equipment such as X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound machines.

Executive Phishing, Smishing, and Vishing Can Put Your Company at Risk

The risk of exposure to executive phishing, smishing, and vishing attacks is far greater than business professionals generally realize. While garden variety criminals send out thousands of sometimes easily identifiable electronic messages, sophisticated hackers are more determined. Many perform social engineering reconnaissance to learn seemingly intimate personal information.

Skilled hackers use posts from professional platforms and social media to create persuasive narratives. In executive phishing, for example, the goal is usually to encourage a staff member to divulge critical financial information or make a wire transfer.

How to Identify Phishing, Smishing, and Vishing Ploys

The adage that knowledge is power holds true when defending against electronic and voice message schemes. By onboarding a cyber security awareness program, once-uneducated team members become a frontline defense against these and other uses of trickery. Learn how to identify executive phishing, smishing, and vishing scams so that you can be proactive with your defenses.

Contact a Cyber Threat Expert to Secure Your Assets

CyberTeam is an established team of cybersecurity experts with over twenty-five years of experience protecting businesses like yours from all manner of cyber threats. Whether you need compliance support, a full-scale risk assessment, managed IT services, or a cybersecurity overhaul, we’ve got the experienced professionals and the cutting-edge technology to safeguard your company's assets and confidential information. If you’re interested in exploring our services, let’s talk — there’s no time to waste.

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